In a move that environmentalists and activists have dubbed as a step backward, the state government of Karnataka handed over the city’s lakes, some of which are in deplorable condition, to the Minor Irrigation Department.
In the process, the state government also repealed the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development authority (KLCDA) Act two years after the Siddaramaiah government brought it into existence.
In its argument, Minor Irrigation Department Minister TB Jayachandra said that this step would ensure proper rejuvenation of lakes and the confusion over multiple authorities maintaining individual lakes.
The KLCDA rules that came into existence from March 2016 talks about “restoring quality and importance of the lakes to their pristine status as reflected in the pages of history of the State.”
“Now the future of the KLCDA is uncertain now. The KLCDA Act actually empowered the body and it had got many regulatory powers. So the Act was extremely good but what was extremely bad was how the government of the day implemented it. It did not empower the body with enough manpower it required,” Sridhar Pabbisetty, CEO of Namma Bengaluru, told TNM.
“The solution was to follow the Act properly. What the government has done is like ‘you have fever, I can’t treat it so I will kill you’. Bengaluru has to be much more water efficient. And the government has shot itself in the foot by repealing the KLCDA Act,” he added.
Similarly, Kathyayini Chamaraj, Executive Trustee at CIVIC, an NGO working on civic and social issues calls the move unwise as the Minor Irrigation Department does not have enough manpower to enforce laws.
“Ideally under the 74th Constitutional Amendment, lakes should be managed by ward committees and the BBMP should overlook it. The Minor Irrigation Department can at the most give technical assistance,” she said.
Activists are of the opinion that unlike a unified transport authority, a unified body to manage lakes is a bad idea as a single lake has its own ecosystem other than just being a tank.
They also feel that this is something similar to a move made by the government earlier to disown dried lakes, but was dropped after public outrage..
Bengaluru currently has only 81 lakes, including those filled with sewage or partly encroached. The district had 261 lakes in 1961. The state authorities are equally guilty of encroaching upon water bodies as private developers.
“Going by this logic, the government should give up roads which have potholes or government hospitals should give up on patients with ailments and only focus on healthy people,” Ramprasad, convenor of convenor of Friends of Lake— an NGO involved with rejuvenating lakes in the city, had said then.